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Cherokee Indians

by William L. Anderson and Ruth Y. Wetmore, 2006
Additional research provided by John L. Bell.

Part i: Overview; Part ii: Cherokee origins and first European contact; Part iii: Disease, destruction, and the loss of Cherokee land; Part iv: Revolutionary War, Cherokee defeat and additional land cessions; Part v: Trail of Tears and the creation of the Eastern Band of Cherokees; Part vi: Federal recognition and the fight for Cherokee rights; Part vii: Modern-day Cherokee life and culture; Part viii: References and additional resources

Part i: An overview

Goingback Chiltoskey carving animal figures from wood, 1967. North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.Cherokee Indians once occupied an area encompassing approximately 140,000 square miles that became parts of North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. The Cherokee thrived in North Carolina well into the late eighteenth century, but as Euro-American settlers steadily moved into and near Cherokee lands, sharp conflicts arose between Cherokees and whites and between Cherokees themselves, as leaders with competing claims to speak for the tribe secured treaties and formed other agreements with white settlers that were not acknowledged by all Cherokee people. In 1838-39, the U.S. government forcibly removed the Cherokee from their lands in North Carolina, leading them on the infamous Trail of Tears to the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). A small number of Cherokee people successfully resisted removal, however, by claiming North Carolina citizenship and by maintaining the right to remain on lands they owned. These people and their descendants were recognized in 1868 by the federal government as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. In the early 2000s these Cherokee, living on the Qualla Boundary in the western part of the state, were the only Indian tribe in North Carolina fully recognized by the federal government. The tribe has more than 13,000 enrolled members.



Keep reading > Part ii: Cherokee origins and first European contact keep reading

Additional information from NCpedia editors at the State Library of North Carolina: : 

The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians is self-governed and autonomous.  Governance is by tribal council.  The Principal Chief as of 2018 was Richard Sneed.  His name is the latest in the list of Cherokee leaders, his predecessors being Yonaguska, William Holland Thomas, Salonitah (or Flying Squirrel), Lloyd R. Welch, Nimrod Jarrett Smith, Stillwell Saunooke, Andy Standing Deer, Jesse Reed, Bird Saloloneeta (or Young Squirrel), John Goins Welch, Joseph A. Saunooke, David Blythe, Sampson Owl, John A. Tahquette, Jarret Blythe, Henry Bradley, Osley Bird Saunooke, Walter Jackson, Noah Powell, John A. Crowe, Robert S. Youngdeer, Jonathan L. Taylor, Gerard Parker, Joyce Dugan, Leon Jones, Michell Hicks, and Patrick Lambert.

--Research Branch, North Carolina Office of Archives and History, 2018.


Eastern Band of Cherokee Website:



My father raised me believing I was of Cherokee heritage and way of life. Imagine my hurt when a man with proof of being my half brother after 60 says he has proof I am not. I feel ashamed to have presented myself as such. I also feel a lost in my beliefs. Want to apologize to a great people and ask forgiveness


I don't think there is any reason to apologize. It was a simple mistake. Who's to say your half brother is correct? Did you verify the validity of your father's claim that you ARE part Cherokee? Did you verify your half brother's claim that you ARE NOT?
Have you done a DNA testing kit from Start there. Start filling in your family tree.


My Great Grandmother (Annie Tucker was born in 1883, a black Indian), in NC. Can U find a birth certificate and address?


Dear Leonzo,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and asking your question.

By separate email I'm going to connect with librarians at the Government & Heritage Library at the State Library of North Carolina.  They will be able to help direct you to appropriate agencies and information resources for your question.

Good luck and best wishes,

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library


Dow you anything about the mohawk tribes


Try this article in the online Canadian Encyclopedia:

You may also wish to contact your local public library for additional resources.

Good luck in your research!

Michelle Underhill, Digital Information Management Program, NC Government & Heritage Library


i love the cherokee indains we go there alot.


I have cherokee blood and I would like to know who my Indian guide would be. I was born in October. My sister said hers' was a poppit flower, she was born in Judly.Is there such a thing by when you were born?

Comment Response:

Thank you for your inquiry about the Cherokee Indians. I have forwarded your question to References Services (, and someone will be in touch with you soon about your questions. Good luck in your research.

Emily Horton, Government & Heritage Library


Dear Eugene,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and taking time to share your question.

Please visit the State Library’s website for our Genealogy Research page --  You will find some helpful information about conducting family history research in general.

If you are near Raleigh, we invite you to visit the State Library to help conduct family history research.  Unfortunately, we do not have any significant resources on American Indians in Kentucky.  Here are a few locations that may be able to help you:

  1. First, you may wish to contact or visit Kentucky’s Department for Libraries and Archives:  They may be able to provide some research assistance for American Indians in Kentucky.
  2. The Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission may be able to help as well with resources and search information.  Here is their website:
  3. The U.S. Department of Interior has a guide for tracing American Indian ancestry:
  4. Finally, you may also wish to contact the tribe related to the heritage of the ancestor you are researching.  Many tribes have websites that include helpful information. 

I hope this information helps!  Good luck in your research and very best wishes,

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

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